Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Swinburne works closely with industry, government and for purpose organisations to address complex social problems. 

Through an interdisciplinary approach that draws insights from management, sociology, public policy, anthropology, and information systems, CSI Swinburne integrates high calibre research with learning and active engagement to contribute to positive social change. By producing high quality outputs that are dynamic, accessible and useful, CSI Swinburne endeavours to have real, transformative impact. 

Our focus on social enterprise, social innovation, philanthropy, and social impact measurement builds a foundation of evidence for the for-purpose sector on ways to address complex social problems. Discover more about our projects or contact us to collaborate. 

Areas of research

We work closely with industry, government and for-purpose organisations to research in four key areas.

With a focus on assets-based thinking, CSI Swinburne both studies and engages in cross-sector collaborations, community-led solutions, and community services innovations to solve entrenched social problems.

We achieve social impact through a diverse and collaborative approach — by actively engaging with policymakers, people experiencing the problems we seek to solve and social innovators, we research creative and scalable solutions. 

We use a range of participatory and partnership-based methodologies, data analytics and visualisation to contribute to progressive and practical social impact.

CSI Swinburne is a world leader in solutions-focused research for a more inclusive economy.

We explore how to expand the role and impacts of business for purpose, with a focus on social enterprise, the social economy, rural livelihoods, and the role of private-sector business in achieving social impact.

Our research examines better policy and practice approaches to doing business for social good in an era of uncertainty, global risks and economic interdependencies.

CSI Swinburne focuses on enabling diverse and effective philanthropy. We focus on understanding the nature of giving in Australia and the effectiveness of emergent innovations in philanthropy and social finance.  

Study Social Impact and Philanthropy at Swinburne

Learn more about the courses that help you develop the skills, knowledge and networks to create positive social change. 

Evaluation and social impact measurement are has become increasingly important in understanding the effectiveness of organisations, investment models, policy and programs.

Using an evidence-based collaborative approach, we explore measures and methods to pinpoint areas that require evaluation. Our measures and methods are practical and dynamic, and place real-time knowledge and power in the hands of the enterprises utilising them.

We implement evaluation and social impact measurement across each of our research areas, together with members of the CSI network.

Our current research projects

Our past projects

Learn more about our past projects.

This project was funded by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and delivered by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) Swinburne in partnership with Community Recycling Network Australia (CRNA) and Resource Recovery Australia.

The project aims were: to improve understanding of how the environmental and social impacts of NSW-based community recycling enterprises are currently measured; to use this information to suggest some common indicators against which they could more effectively document and report on their performance in these areas, and to consider the implications of this work for sustainability-focused social enterprises more broadly. 

Read the final report

This project examines a developing partnership between a not-for-profit and utility company. New service design is needed in a sector driven by social reforms and the growing complexity of social needs.

The initiative looks at ways to provide holistic levels of care and improve the referral pathways for people who require social support services. Research examines how information flow between organisations can improve so clients can more easily be referred to other programs and organisations.

This study examines the development of the partnership and workforce capability implications. Future research will examine the impacts on clients.

Research team

The definition of social enterprise is still subject to some debate. The Western Australian government draws its definition from research by Professor Barraket.

Social enterprises are organisations that exist to fulfil a mission consistent with public or community benefit, trade to fulfil that mission, and reinvest a substantial proportion of their profit or surplus in the fulfilment of the mission (Barraket et al. 2010).

An environment for the growth of social enterprises is influenced by these three factors:

  1. Contemporary approaches to social service deliver
  2. Growing consumer demands for ethical business
  3. New social challenges created by global economic trends.

There are increasing opportunities for social enterprises. Equally, there are increasing demands. This raises questions about the capacity of a social enterprise to maintain the business sustainability necessary to deliver on social objectives. The purpose of our study is to improve the financial resilience of social enterprises in Western Australia and beyond.

Our research investigates a better understanding of social enterprise needs and behaviours to access financial and other resources.

Project timeframe

2014 – 2019

Research team

We have worked with social enterprise development company, Social Traders, to undertake the second national mapping study of social enterprises in Australia.

Our study builds upon work conducted by Professor Jo Barraket with Social Traders in 2009–10. FASES II examines current characteristics, practices and development priorities of Australian social enterprises via a series of workshops and a national online survey.

Download the 'Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector (FASES) 2016 project final report' from Australian Policy Online.

Research team

Many people in Australia do not have access to the social conditions necessary for a good and healthy life. To address the issue of inequity, VicHealth proposes the development of a new model and approach for reducing inequity and making a difference to these social conditions.

The result is a social incubator established to drive macro level change in health inequity. It is a partnership between strategic planners Spark Strategy and VicHealth. Our research evaluates the evolution and development of this social incubator.

Research team

The Prime Minister’s Business Community Partnership commissioned a landmark study into giving and volunteering in Australia. We are delighted to partner in this major research project. Giving Australia 2015 is led by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at QUT.

Giving Australia 2015 is collecting comprehensive, contemporary information on giving and volunteering by individuals, charitable organisations, philanthropists and businesses throughout Australia. Qualitative data gathered through focus groups and interviews will also inform the development of survey instruments that will gather quantitative information. Our research will enable insight into Australia's giving and volunteering behaviours, attitudes and trends.

This data collection expands information gathered by Giving Australia 2005. It improves the understanding of philanthropic behaviours by individuals and businesses in Australia and provides baseline data. The study includes a large-scale household telephone survey.

Project timeframe

Giving Australia 2015 is expected to be completed in late 2016.

Research team

Our Watch is nation-wide organisation established to drive change in the culture, behaviours and attitudes that lead to violence. We are commissioned by Our Watch to evaluate a violence prevention project—CALD communities prevention of violence against women and their children.

The program operates within two different culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. It challenges gender stereotyping, promotes gender equality and non-violent norms.

Our evaluation seeks to investigate the contextual suitability and cultural appropriateness of this program.

Research team

Resource Recovery Australia (RRA) is a social enterprise providing national coaching and consultancy services to local governments and communities on waste management needs.

We are commissioned to undertake a three-year evaluation of RRA. Our research will investigate the processes that underpinned the start-up phase. Plus we will review the social and business performance of RAA's first three years of operation.

Research team

Poor information systems impact collaboration, innovation and policy reform.  We know that we need to work together and innovate to effectively address the complex public health and social problems. Building effective information systems plays a crucial role in improving collaboration and fostering innovation.

International and local policy makers in education, health and welfare recognise this need to work together to reform policy and programs. A poorly performing information systems (IS) is one of the most common problems that significantly impedes collaborative effort.

Collaboration at a state and local level in Victoria, Australia is hindered by challenges in sharing information about service delivery and monitoring of outcomes. Therefore we are working with the Department of Health (DH) and public health agencies across Victoria, particularly in the southern and eastern region to build IS capacity.

We are developing a testing process to evaluate and improve information systems in public health to improve collaboration.

Research team

The Sustainable Regions Applied Research Network is an initiative to strengthen collaboration and leadership skills among researchers working for the sustainable development of rural and resource-based regions. It brings together impact-focused regional research centres, groups and networks in Chile, Argentina and Australia to explore common issues and develop international collaborations.

Project timeframe

September 2016 – September 2017

Research team

Sustainable Regions Applied Research Network is supported by the Australian Government through the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Learn more about Sustainable Regions Applied Research Network

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Contact the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne

There are many ways to engage with us. Get in touch to discuss how we can work together to determine new approaches to learning and knowledge creation by calling +61 3 9214 3757 or emailing csiswin@swinburne.edu.au.

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